The final vision of ultimate reality

Ds J Bruintjes
Daniel 12
Preek Inhoud: 

Today we come to Daniel 12. The last chapter, the last sermon. And what a journey we have been able to take. We have been encouraged in our praying and built up in our daily living as we learn how to deal with being in the world and not of it. We have been pointed to Christ again and again – as the one that will put an end to the ultimate exile, as the one to which Daniel is pointing as a person. We have learned how to pray, what it means to repent, what it means that God is sovereign. Daniel has forced us to look back at the very first exile from the garden of Eden, and showed us that we cannot go back there, we must go forward to the last exile: the exile of Jesus from the Father’s presence.

He has opened the vision of Gods grand plan, and his sovereignty as he leads all of history for the sake of his people.  We started with an exile from the land and we end with a return. We started with leaving the land of life, and going to the realm of death, and we end with a return to life. We started by saying that Israel was exiled because of the curse, and we end with the curse being lifted. This is a book that is unified in its vision of the kingdom of God, a vision that the church must never lose, especially in times of persecution, and hardship.

Our faith will be tested, it will be tried – but God is faithful. His saints will triumph! The times of tribulation will be cut short! The antichrist will be defeated just when he reaches the peak of his power. This is the story of the gospel. The story of the cross. He will provide a way out. He will give the strength to endure, and he will cut short the time of persecution for the sake of the church.

The final vision of ultimate reality

  1. The hope of glory
  2. Unanswered Questions.

The Hope of Glory.

Daniel 12 says, “At that time Michael, the great prince who protects your people, will arise. There will be a time of distress such as has not happened from the beginning of nations until then.” The phrase, ‘At that time’ brings us back into chapter 10 and 11. Where that evil guy that reflected the ultimate antichrist arose, and against him came the protector of Gods people when they needed him most.  Because there would be a time of distress as had not happened since the beginning. This is referenced in Matthew 24 where Jesus tell the disciples of a time when there will be a great tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the world until now. Jesus seems to interpret Daniel here and is showing us a picture of the fulfillment of the ages. This is about the fulfillment of all of Daniel’s visions! The fulfillment of the ages. He is pushing us to the end of time.  Centered in Christ’s first coming and fulfilled  in his second coming.

 Remember this is all one vision still – a vision which I believe pushes us to the second coming of Christ. Michae,l the very archangel of the Lord will arise to protect his people during a time of intense distress. In fact, it will be the worst distress experienced in world history. But what happens to God’s people in distress? What happens to Gods people when their world comes crashing down? They reach out, they call out and they hold onto the almighty power of their infinite God. Suffering produces perseverance, perseverance character, and character – hope. And hope does not disappoint.

Hope is of the product of suffering – a hope that does not disappoint, because Gods love has been poured out. This is not our home. O sure, we get special foretastes of home here as we enjoy fellowship together and enjoy each other and God. But this is not home. No, we will be home when we finally become fully what we already are now in Christ. When this world is free from bondage of sin! When we are free! God is faithful, remember there is nothing that can separate a child from his love. Nothing. Not even the worst distress in the world. No matter how beaten or broken, they hold onto the hope of Glory.

God will not lose one of his own. Not one. Not even one. As it says in verse 1b, “But at that time your people – everyone whose names are found written in the book – will be delivered.” Everyone written in the book of life. But at that time! Every single one. Not just some of us, not just a few of us. But everyone whose name is written in the book of life is going to be saved. Now the first question always is, how can I be sure my name is written in the book of life?

Good question! Let me ask you a question. Do you believe in your own strength, do you see yourself as good? Is your faith outside of yourself in Jesus, and are you holding on to Him? Do you reach out to him in distress? Or do you seek a way out yourself? Do you trust Gods faithfulness no matter what, as Daniel and his three friends did? Do you hold on to Christ! The one who was faithful to death! The faithful witness will be the judge!

On that great, glorious, awesome and terrifying day Daniel says, “Multitudes who sleep in the dust of the earth will awake. Some to everlasting life, others to shame and everlasting contempt.” This is going to happen. This is real. This has definitely not happened, or we would have heard about it.  Dear church this cannot be anything but the last day. Daniel is showing us eternity. Revelation picks up on this in 20:1 “Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. Earth and sky fled from his presence and there was no place for them. And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened which was the book of life.”  This is none other than the judgment throne of God, before whom every single human being that has ever lived will have to appear. Adam will be there, along with Cain his son, Daniel along with Alexander the Great, along with John Calvin, and Hitler. Trump will be there, so will Ramaphosa, me and you.

Here Daniel’s name is finding its fulfillment. His name means ‘My God is Judge’. The great judge is opening his book, and he condemns some and others are raised up to newness of life. Finally, ultimate justice will be done. When God judges all the evils of the world, everything that is wrong with this world will be undone. Some will be raised to everlasting life, and others to shame and everlasting contempt. Life, because you have held onto the word of life and remained faithful to God, or shame and contempt for all the deeds committed in secret, and public on earth while ignoring the sovereign God.

Verse three gives us a further picture of what that everlasting life looks like. And boy is it a glorious vision for the children of God. verse 3, “Those who are wise will shine like the brightness of the heavens, and those who lead many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever!” You see at the end of every chapter, at the end of every vision in this book we saw how the righteous were exalted and the wicked humbled. This is ultimate exaltation! This is what you are living for! Brothers and sisters we will shine the glory of God like the brightness of heaven! Those who are wise will shine. This is a book which shows us a man who was wise. It is the fear of the Lord that is the beginning of wisdom. He will make decisions – everyday – based on who he knows his God to be. He will life prudently, wisely. Knowing on one side God is sovereign, and on the other side he is called to be faithful. So not a fatalistic way of thinking which says, God is sovereign anyways. And not a self-righteous I -need- to- do- it- all- myself way of thinking, but wisely. In this way will reflect the glory of our God! Like stars in heaven. And there is more, “and those who lead many to righteousness, like the stars for ever and ever.”

Those who lead many to righteousness. How do we do that? By being wise, and being lights, and showing the people Christ is word and action. We lead them to righteousness, we don’t make them righteous. We lead them there, because righteousness is found in a person – Jesus Christ. HE is our righteousness. And it is only in him that we can be righteous.

Wow what a glorious vision! But once more in Daniel we meet what has seemed to be a running theme. God says, the time is not yet. God tells Daniel, “But you, Daniel, close up and seal the words of the scroll until the time of the end. Many will go here and there to increase knowledge.” He is called to seal it up until the time of the end. The scroll is sealed here, and it is not until Jesus comes that the scroll will be unsealed, and that last chapter of history will be written. The end will come. But the questions still arise. How long? What will be the outcome? Which brings us to our second point

Unanswered Questions.

Throughout this book we have seen some questions that we left answered. We do not know history, but God gives us what we need in order to trust him and be faithful.

“Then I Daniel looked, and there before me stood two others, one on this bank of the river and one on the opposite side.” So, he looks up, and he sees before him two others (probably angelic beings) one on the same side of the river as he is on and one on the other side. Between them runs a mighty river. And above the river there is a man clothed in linen as we see in verse 7a, “The man clothed in linen, who was above the waters of the river.”

One of the angelic beings on the side of the river asks the man above the river, “How long will it be before these astonishing things are fulfilled?” There is the million-dollar question again, isn’t it? How long? This is the question for Daniel, I can imagine he is eagerly listening to this conversation, especially after hearing about the terrible distress, how long! It is our question, how long? We don’t know how much longer we can hold on. Sometimes we feel like giving up. And we go back to our knees in tears and ask, how long?! I believe, help my unbelief. Hold me until your promises are fulfilled! Fulfill your promises.

We read the man’s answer, if you can call it that, in verse 7, “The man clothed in linen, who was above the waters of the river, lifted his right hand and his left hand toward heaven, and I heard him swear by him who lives forever, saying, “It will be for a time, times and half a time. When the power of the holy people has been finally broken all these things will be completed.”  It will happen when the power of the Holy one is broken. Who is the power of the Holy People? Who is your strength, and tower? Is it not Jesus Christ? When was He broken? On the cross. The time, times and half a times refers probably to three and a half years, but it could also refer to the time he hung on that cross.

That is when all this was fulfilled. But now your question, is wait a minute, pastor Johan, are you saying the resurrection has already happened and I missed it? Fair question, and yes in a sense it has happened. Beloved in a sense you are already raised. Through faith in Christ you have been raised with Christ. It is a spiritual reality. You are the light of the world already, you are shining like stars in a wicked and perverse generation as James says. Christ’s resurrection is a guarantee of your own bodily resurrection. The new creation has entered the old, and he is making all things new, one heart at a time. And no, it hasn’t happened. There is still a day when the final judgement will take place. But for those in Christ that judgment has in a sense already taken place. As we like to say, it is the theology of the already but the not yet.

It is no wonder that Daniel did not understand, as we read in verse 8, “I heard, but I did not understand. So I asked, “My Lord, what will the outcome of all this be?” The first question was, “how long?!” And he said until the power of the holy people is broken, and the second question now follows, “What will the outcome be?”

The answer, again if you can call it that, is found in verse 9 and 10, “He replied, ‘Go your way, Daniel, because the words are closed up and sealed until the time of the end. Many will be purified, made spotless and refined, but the wicked will continue to be wicked. None of the wicked will understand, but those who are wise will understand.”

Again, Daniel is told to seal up this scroll. Why? Because the words are sealed until the time of the end. And when that end comes, they will be fulfilled. And through their fulfillment “many will be purified, made spotless and refined, but the wicked will continue to do wicked.” This reminds us again of the end of Revelation where it says, “Do not seal up the words of the prophecy of this book. Because the time is near. So “Let him who does wrong continue to do wrong; let him who is vile continue to be vile; let him who does right continue to do right, and let him who is holy continue to be holy.”

His answer continues in verse 11 and 12, “from the time that the daily sacrifice is abolished and the abomination that causes desolation is set up, there will be 1290 days. Blessed is the one who waits for and reaches the end of 1335 says.” Now what in the world do we do with this? It is about 3 and a half years. It could be the ministry of Jesus Christ, and his crucifixion is then the abomination. I think it has to be a literal number, because of how exact it is. But it has symbolic meaning. For example, I think Jonah was in the fish literally, but it was symbolic of Christ in the grave. So, this is a specific time given to Gods people. Either way this Is a time that is cut short. It will not reach the fullness of 7. It makes sense in light of Matthew 24 where he says, “Had those days not been cut short…”

There will be an end to the distress. The righteous will be exalted. If there is one thing this book has shown us again and again it is that truth. Exaltation through suffering. Glory through persecutions.  Every chapter ends with the end of the wicked, an end of persecution, and the exaltation of the righteous. Even in these last visions although wickedness and evil empires look at times victorious they are only temporary tools for the purification of Gods people. A remnant will be preserved.

I love verse 13, At the end of the days you will rise to receive your allotted inheritance. Daniel you too will receive your inheritance. He had been exiled from the inheritance and now God promises him the ultimate inheritance. God humbles the proud. God saves his people. God has a plan. Death would be overcome. Life is the inheritance of the saints.

Remember when back in Daniel 1 we started in Shinar – or the place of Babel, in Exile. Gods inheritance was ravaged because of his people’s sin. And where do we end, “You will arise and receive your allotted inheritance.” The reign of sin, evil and death will not continue forever. It will end. It has ended in Christ, and we proclaim with power and might the victory of Jesus Christ to the world. The hope of the victory of the seed of the woman.

This book is about Gods ultimate victory. You see, Nebuchadnezzar commanded everyone to worship the idol, but God commands all to worship the image of the invisible God, Jesus. Nebuchadnezzar casts the righteous into the furnace, God casts the wicked there. God will bring Just judgement, punishing the wicked and vindicating the righteous, fulfilling the prophesied resurrection of the just and the unjust. Justice will be done for the Church of Jesus Christ under the cross.

You see, empires may rise and fall but God is faithful. We see that in the very last line of this chapter. Daniel remained until the first year of Cyrus. Nebuchadnezzar  tried so hard to eliminate this man’s identity – but Daniel which means “my God is Judge” remained. He came as a young boy of 14 and died at 90. Nebuchadnezzar’s kingdom had disappeared, other kings had come and gone. Daniel remained. This is history. This is the promise of the church in every age. Zion will remain. You and I who are united to Christ, will remain. Forever. Stand on that promise this week, and in the power of God do not back down.